New Greenpeace images show large-scale illegal fires in the Amazon rainforest

by Katie Nelson

August 3, 2021

“A deal with Bolsonaro means investing in enabling deforestation and threatening the lives of Indigenous Peoples in Brazil.”

São Paulo, Brazil – Shocking new aerial photos captured by Greenpeace Brazil show large-scale, illegal fires clearing land in the Amazon. Satellite data also confirmed that thousands of fires were burning at the end of July, the same month a new study in  Nature revealed parts of the Amazon now emit more carbon than they absorb. 

See the flyover images here.

Fires are part of the process of land clearance and follow deforestation to prepare it for cattle or crops. With official data (deforestation alerts) for the first half of 2021 confirming an increase in deforestation of 17.1 percent compared to the same period in 2020, it is feared the worst fires are yet to come. [1]

This week, the Brazilian Congress has prioritized voting on the Land Regularization Bill (or “land grabbing bill” – 2633/2020). This is one of a suite of bills that make up what NGOs are calling the “Destruction Package.” If passed they will severely weaken laws protecting the Amazon as well as threatening the very existence of Indigenous Peoples. [2]

With 51 percent of the first half of 2021’s deforestation occurring on public lands (Undesignated Public Forests, Conservation Areas, and Indigenous Lands), it seems the bills are already having an impact on where forest criminals choose to focus their attention. If passed, it will encourage further invasion and destruction of public lands due to expectation of impunity to land-grabbers. 

In response, Cristiane Mazzetti, Amazon Campaigner at Greenpeace Brazil, said:

“As large as the illegal fires are currently, the worst is yet to come.These burnings in the photos on public lands are enabled by two and a half years of sabotaging environmental enforcement in Brazil and are encouraged by a Congress, who, in the midst of several crises, is using emergency powers to vote on new laws like PL2633 that would reward and legitimize these sort of land grabbing practices.

“Unfortunately, the companies buying from these areas and financing agricultural expansion in Brazil continue to treat such dangerous trends as normal and profit from an environment of recklessness.”   

Diana Ruiz, Senior Forest Campaigner at Greenpeace USA, said:

“The destruction of the Amazon rainforest and the ongoing human rights violations of Indigenous People remains part of Brazil’s Bolsonaro’s agenda. As the US Climate Envoy John Kerry continues to engage with Brazil, the Biden administration cannot ignore the legislation being introduced in Brazil that encourages deforestation, rewards land-grabbers, and further incentivizes the destruction of the Amazon. Kerry’s team must recognize that all deforestation needs to end if we are to stop the destruction of the Amazon rainforest.  

“A deal with Bolsonaro means investing in enabling deforestation and threatening the lives of Indigenous Peoples in Brazil.”


[1] Data shows an area totaling 3,610 km2 had been deforested at the end of June – 17.1% higher than the same period in 2020.

[2] More information on proposed weakening of Brazil’s environmental legislation 


Katie Nelson, Senior Communications Specialist, Greenpeace USA: +1 (678) 644-1681, [email protected] 

Katie Nelson

By Katie Nelson

Katie Nelson is a Senior Communications Specialist at Greenpeace USA.

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